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The Mummy

Since Boris Karloff spooked audiences in Universal Studio’s ‘The Mummy’ in 1932, the series has seen many iterations. Hammer studios in England and others have utilised the vengeful Egyptian monster to their ghoulish advantage. The character has been a reliable money-spinner so it’s no surprise the umpteenth version has materialised with ‘The Mummy’. The start of another franchise from Universal who initially made it such a popular hit, they no doubt hope it will avoid a box office curse and have audiences screaming for more sequels.

When Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) stumbles on an old burial site, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot. A soldier of fortune endlessly looking for ancient artefacts to sell to the highest bidder, Nick is startled by what he finds. Discovering a cavern filled with Egyptian treasures, he comes across the tomb holding the body of evil Egyptian princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). When moving her coffin, he accidentally frees her from her confines. She regains her supernatural powers and begins to wreak havoc on London with only Nick’s ingenuity standing in her destructive ways.

The start of the ‘Dark Universe’ monster franchise, ‘The Mummy’ feels more like a product than film. It goes through the whole ‘setting up a movie for more sequels’ route than telling its own story. The unfocussed screenplay constantly stops to provide exposition for future movies via the character of Doctor Jekyll (Russell Crowe). This distracts from the main narrative with genuine tension and scares in short supply. Alex Kurtzman shows little flair in crafting something interesting even if the action scenes are effective.

‘The Mummy’ thrives due to its cast. Tom Cruise makes for an interesting semi-hero, whose motives aren’t always clear. His descent into darkness with what he’s unleashed creates an intriguing plot strand to follow. Boutella is also strong as the wicked princess, conveying the right amount of menace the role needs. The CGI is suitably dazzling but the script lets things down. It’s a very bland by-the-numbers effort with little originality or fearsome atmosphere.

‘The Mummy’ isn’t great with the performances more solid than a story going into too many directions. Had it concentrated more on the title character than setting up a cinematic spooky universe it might have worked. What we’re left are moments of what could have been with the Pharaoh’s curse seemingly causing havoc on the formulaic tale.

Rating out of 10: 5

Churchill

‘History is usually written by the victors’ is an often used phrase. World War 2 saw many winners and losers with history re-written to suit narratives. Among the many scribbled words have been those about British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill. At times an untouchable hero to villainous albatross, opinions about him have been polarising. ‘Churchill’ provides a different slant on a crucial historical figure. Portrayed neither as monster or saint, ‘Churchill’ successfully dives under the skin of an enigmatic man still affecting opinions.

In June 1944, World War 2 stands at a crossroads. With allied forces assembled on Britain’s south coast ready to regain control of Nazi occupied Europe, they await orders from Prime Minister Churchill (Brian Cox). Haunted by memories of failed decisions causing mass casualties in the First World War, Churchill’s indecision to commence the D-Day landings causes conflict. The only person Churchill confides in is his wife Clementine (Miranda Richardson). Her advice proves crucial in creating the legacy Churchill needs to fulfil his destiny as one of history’s true leaders.

‘Churchill’ is an engaging portrait of a complex person. A dogmatic, bombastic bully and then a shining beacon of reason, the multi-facets of his persona are effectively realised. The decisions he had to make would have been ones no ‘normal’ person would want. Standing up to his more gung-go colleagues and his efforts at political diplomacy bring a startling insight to an important moment in history. Brian Cox delivers an acceptable performance as Churchill even if it feels more caricatured than truly authentic.

Whilst the performances are uniformly fine, with Miranda Richardson excellent as Churchill’s wife, there doesn’t seem much to the overall story. Scenes feel unnecessarily padded out with the screenplay repeating itself several times. Perhaps had the film explored Churchill’s entire reign during World War 2 there may have been more narrative bite. There doesn’t seem enough to fill the run-time although what’s in it is fascinating. The cinematography ably papers over any extended sequences with some very striking visuals.

‘Churchill’ may change opinions about the fabled war-time leader. Whatever the feelings about him, it can’t be denied how heavy the weight of the nation must have been. That he saw it through is a measure of his personal strength with people now able to watch his actions in the free society he fought hard to retain.

Rating out of 10: 6